The advent of multimedia has largely influenced the evolution of the Australian fashion industry over the past ten years, according to fashion editor of Marie Claire, Kate Harrowsmith. She states that online shopping and the constant availability of fashion news and products on the Internet, has helped the industry become more accessible to consumers and raised awareness about fashion.
“After the war the fashion industry was actually at one of its higher points in its entire history and I think advertising came through magazines and through the way in which people attended events and copied each others kind of looks,” says Ms Maynard.
“There was the very strong emphasis on small dress makers who copied high fashion.”
Ms Maynard states that the introduction of global brands and fast fashion to Australia has brought us up to date with what’s happening in fashion around the world.
“We used to be in a position where we copied overseas things because it took a long time to get out here by post or whatever. It just doesn’t work like that now.”
“It’s instantaneous. I mean with fast fashion, you can get Zara or whatever you want at the same time as anybody else around the world.”
But it’s not just this new accessibility to global fashion that has changed in the industry. The way in which companies and labels are marketing their brands has also evolved and according to Ms Maynard, these brands are now using social media to reach a wider audience.
“Marketing today of course is through a whole range of new media and this is one of the things that I think is absolutely fascinating, the way in which the social media are being used to market, not high fashion but pretty middle to upper middle class fashion and even sort of street wear,” says Ms Maynard.
“I think the whole issue is absolutely intriguing.”
And it’s no secret that one of the biggest influences on not only the Australian, but also the global fashion industry’s evolution, has been the introduction of online shopping. Ms Maynard believes that retail giants such as David Jones have made the right move in going online and supplying their customers with products both in person and over the Internet.
“…They’re all beginning to take note of the fact that people want to look at things online, maybe buy them or otherwise, go into the shop and try something on and go back, buy it for a cheaper price.
“I think people have more power now to pick and choose, they don’t have to buy in one single department store or a couple of department stores. They can roam around the world really.”
Like Ms Harrowsmith, Ms Maynard believes that the Australian consumers’ awareness of fashion has indeed been heightened over the past few years.
“I think a broader spectrum of people are interested in fashion.
“I mean, the older sort of age group perhaps have lost a bit of interest but we don’t have that upper echelon of social people who would go to the balls or the opening of the opera and so forth and want to have a new dress for the event.
“I think people, the class kind of shaping of society is less evident and I think there’s more of a consciousness of not just fashion, but of style and design. This is what seems to me to have replaced fashionable dress, it’s style.”
However Queensland University of Technology academic, Kay McMahon, disagrees with Ms Maynard and Ms Harrowsmith, believing that the consumer is no more aware of fashion now than they were ten years ago.
“I think that consumers, the fashion consumer, has always been interested in fashion.”
Ms McMahon does however believe that the Australian fashion industry has evolved significantly over the past 50 years and that it now demands that its designers strive for global recognition.
“It’s come from a very small domestic market producing industry to now, where you have to be an international or global player in the marketplace, to actually have sales as well as any credibility.”
Perth based designer, Ruth Tarvydas also believes that the evolution of the Australian industry has led to designers needing to launch themselves into the global market in order to achieve success.
“…You need to export because Australia is a very small market there’s no doubt about it.”
Ms Tarvydas gave her label a head start, being the first Australian designer to export overseas back in the 1980s.
“In the 80s I had a great big department store full of fashion and the only way, cause I think I was just very, very excited and wanted to do everything, but the only way you could actually sustain it was by world market.
“And that’s why we went overseas and started to export, because the market here is just too small because we’re selling something that’s quite expensive you know, so that was a learning curve but then of course that is just intelligent business.”
She also believes that the Australian fashion industry has evolved extensively since the 80s, and agrees that it’s social media that has helped bring overseas fashions to our doorstep.
“In the 80s of course it was basically a trip [overseas] to see what was going on or otherwise waiting for the magazines to come out, but now, it’s like instant on the Internet and on Facebook and everything is just so fast it’s absolutely brilliant.”
However, like Ms McMahon, Ms Tarvydas believes that women are no more interested in fashion now than they were in the past.
“I think girls have always loved fashion and I don’t think anything has changed as far as a girl needing to look fantastic, glamorous or whatever over the many, many years you know? And even going back to the Hollywood days women were dressing up probably more so then than we do now but we are more aware of it because of the speed of information.”
Nikki Parkinson, founder and editor of the blog Styling You, agrees with Ms Tarvydas and Ms McMahon. She says that while the consumer’s awareness of fashion may not have risen over the past ten years, the Internet has most definitely allowed for more accessibility for consumers.
“I think the awareness is not necessarily more but it’s more accessible,” says Ms Parkinson.
“So definitely in the last five years that is because of the growth of access to online avenues to find inspiration or specific products, specific designs, even fashion news and because that online aspect is just a window to what’s happening in fashion around the world as it happens.”
And like Ms Maynard, Ms Parkinson believes that the evolution of the industry over the last 20 years has forced it to update its marketing strategies.
“The marketing has had to get more clever and fashion designers have had to, not only be creative in the designs and what to come up with, but also be creative in how they get those designs out to the public or even out to be marketed to boutiques or department stores.”
But when it comes down to it, it is the advent of multimedia and online accessibility to global fashion that has brought the Australian fashion industry up to speed with the rest of the world.
“I think [it] definitely changes the whole landscape,” says Ms Parkinson.